The Mountain

There he stands at the foot of the mountain,
In awe of its' majesty;
He's not sure why, but he knows that he must
Its' beautiful summit see.

From the time he was just old enough to remember he had loved
the mountain – if you will call it love, that is. Sometimes he
worshipped it, sometimes he feared it (especially in stormy weather,
for some reason), and sometimes he loathed the fact that he could not
climb it and see for himself what was there. His father hunted it –
hunting for deer, pheasant, bear, and even ran traps on its clear,
cold streams. Once he went along and helped carry the traps for his
father – but they only went about a half-mile from the house. That
one short visit was enough, though, to instill a longing in him to
conquer the height.

As lovely as it is from the valley,
Adorned with its' bluffs and trees,
He knew that the summit would surpass it,
He knew someday he would see…

How he loved it when his father would come in with trout from
the stream about halfway up the mountain. They were so large and
pretty and good to eat! Mother would clean the fish and father would
bathe and Grandfather and Grandmother and all his aunts and uncles
would come over – bringing with them the cousins – and all had such a
good time! He loved it when father would bring home bear meat also,
for all the kinfolks would come over and have a bar-b-que.

There was something about that old mountain…
It called to him night and day;
He knew that someday he'd climb to the top,
Or, die trying on the way.

In the springtime, when the furs from the winter trapping
were collected and made ready for the market, father would take them
into town. How he wanted to go with father! Father would bring back
beans and coffee and flour and sugar and cloth and many wonderful and
fine things. Mother and sister would make clothes out of the cloth.
He would replenish the supply of tools and, if the trapping had been
good and the prices up, father would even bring back toys! It was
such a fun time.

The mountain fed them, put clothes on their backs,
And stood there – so strong and tall;
He couldn't imagine life without it,
Nor could he refuse its' call.

On market day the whole family would arise and dress early –
well before sunup. Mother and sister would prepare a big meal – much
larger than the usual. He would gather the eggs and bring in the
logs for the fire while father was packing the wagon. He liked the
idea of helping out, because, after all, he wanted to do his part;
but it was still cold and, always at that hour, so dark. He didn't
like the dark. He wanted to go with father – to see for himself the
stores and the people and everything. But father had always told him
that he was needed at home to "watch after things" – he knew, though,
that really he was too young. He didn't know what "young" was, but
he had heard mother tell father that one time.

What treasures would he see on the mountain?
What secrets would it reveal?
Deep down he felt the longing to climb it,
A longing naught else could heal.

Father told him that next year the two of them would climb
the mountain together. He would then be old enough to learn to
hunt. Each day he would help gather the equipment that father took
with him, and each day he would ask questions about what each piece
was used for, and each day he learned a little more – but mostly,
each day the burning desire to accompany father grew and grew. Next
year seemed so far away. He didn't know what "next year" meant, but
it sure seemed that time was standing still. Once he almost mustered
the courage to ask father if he could go even though it wasn't "next
year" – almost. Father didn't like answering the same question twice
and he didn't put up with those who contradicted his word, either.
He knew that "next year" would arrive – surely it must – and that
when it did, father would tell him.

He'd love to romp and play on the mountain,
And see what there was to see,
Obsessed with the quest, he knew that he would
Someday the mountaintop see.

Then, one late September day, father left as usual – a little
after sunup. On normal days father gathered the firewood and sister
gathered the eggs and mother cooked the breakfast. He was jolly and
well rested and had even spoken of their first trip up the mountain
together, saying that it was only a few months away. He didn't know
how long a "few months" was, but he thought it must be closer
than "next year".

Each day the summit was more appealing,
Calling his innocent heart;
In a few months, he and father would climb…
And he couldn't wait to start!

About noon it started to snow. He loved playing in the
snow! Of course, it would be better if father were back, because he
would help build a snowman and pull the sled and even make snow
angels. Maybe father would come back early! Maybe he and mother and
sister could begin the snowman and father could pick up the mid-
section and the head and put them in place when he returned! Maybe…

He wondered what father was doing now
And why he was not back yet,
The sunshine had now almost disappeared,
Soon enough it would be set.

Dusk turned to dark and father still wasn't back. He and
mother and sister waited supper for him, and mother's face looked
strained and worried. Sometimes she would mumble something, but he
couldn't make out what she was saying. He was tired and cold and
hungry and he really missed father. Why doesn't he come? Where is
he? Could he have lost his way?

Perhaps he has taken a grizzly bear,
Surely he must be all right;
Perhaps he is resting and will return
In the morning, at first light.


H. L. Gradowith


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